The thing to remember about making habits stick
Look, I’m not perfect.
I know I talk a lot about how much I push myself to be better. Better at sales, better in my health and daily habits, better in my relationships. All around better.
But that doesn’t mean that it always works all the time.
If you get my Sherpa newsletter, (sign up here if you don’t), you’ll have read from last week’s email that I’ve let all the habits I’ve built up fall apart. Big time.
Right now, pretty much everybody’s routines have been demolished, so it’s understandable.
The thing about me though is that I’m lucky enough that my day-to-day really hasn’t changed much. I already work from home, so that didn’t change. My partner is handling the majority of homeschooling for our kiddo, no change there. I can’t go have coffee with clients or go to my usual weekly classes, which sucks. But I’m still meeting people, networking, and learning over Zoom. So it hasn’t been the huge transition for me that it has for so many other people.
Now I’ll have to build those habits back up. Again.
And they are going to have to work around the new habits I’ve built around the different avenues I’ve taken in my company.
So, what now?
I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t start too many things at once. Honestly, nobody should.
A few years ago, I got super excited about being a brand new superhuman overnight. I was going to start all these new things that were going to make me a way better person. In addition to my regular workday, I was going to start:
- Learning a new language with 5 DuoLingo lessons a day
- Meditating for 20 minutes every day
- Write 1000 words daily
- Relearning an instrument, namely the trumpet
- A high-intensity gymnastics style bodyweight workout for 1 hour 4 times a week.
I was totally convinced that I was going to do all of this, while also going to the Kung Fu class that I’d been going to for 3+ hours a night twice a week for years. And I was still going to be an awesome, involved dad and a present, loving partner to my girlfriend.
I sat down and planned out an ideal schedule that included time for all these things with no awareness of the obvious.
There was no way it was going to happen. At least not all at once.
But I get so fired up about things that, even after writing all of this out, I didn’t see how crazy it was that I was going to try to fit all of this into my regular schedule. While working, being a family man, and staying committed to Kung Fu.
Because of the way my brain works, all of these things were mentally tied together. So when I fell off the wagon, I fell all the way off.
I dropped literally all of them in less than two months.
This happens to people all the time. They want to do too much at one time, and they don’t do any of it for long or very well. I just fell maybe a little harder because I can be a lunatic about things once I get excited.
But everybody is guilty of it. We see something and decide that we want it for ourselves. And it can be hard to look at the bigger picture, making the thing you want potentially doomed to fail. We put way too much trust in our future selves.
Look at the average person wanting to lose weight. Too often, they take on too much at one time. Completely change their diet and eating habits, workout, sleep better, drink more water, cut out junk food and other vices, etc. All. At. Once. Unless they already had mostly good habits around this stuff, there’s no way all of these changes at the same time will be sustainable.
They ultimately fail.
Sometimes, just looking at everything they need to do to lose the amount of weight they want to lose causes them to never even start. The intimidation of all that change is too much.
What I learned from my experience is that it is so hard to bite off more than you can chew. Intellectually, I know this. But I’m not immune to ego either.
Here’s the thing.
The plan you follow is better than the plan that will get you your ideal results.
The optimal result should be sticking to your new habit/s. Once you’ve stuck to the most important, look at your results. Then go from there.
Eventually, you’ll be able to do all of the things you want to do at a level where it’s effortless.
But that doesn’t mean that you’ll never fall off the wagon. Obviously.
If you do, just breathe. It’s okay. Take that time to reexamine the habits you want to create or reestablish. Make a list and rank them. How you do that is up to you; easiest to hardest, most important, however you want. But choose your starting place and make a plan. Then go for it, one by one.
And that’s where I am now. One at a time. (Hopefully!)